How curiosity and creativity can fuel leadership success – interview with Tony Brooks

September 16, 2022
by Charlie Whyman
Tony Brooks headshot

When you think of ‘leadership’, what words do you think of? 





How about Curious? Creative?  

My guess is that those ones aren’t always top of the list… 

But WHY?  

Well as business leaders, you’ve got a lot on your plate. 

Whether it’s managing a team, dealing with clients and/or customers, or trying to keep a hold of the operational sides of your business, there’s normally not a lot of breathing room left for coming up with new ideas. 

Or you spend loads of time brainstorming and researching new ideas, only to find yourself down a rabbit hole with no real idea of how to incorporate your thinking into growing your business. 

Allowing yourself to be curious and to feed your creativity is key, but how do you manage it in a way that genuinely benefits your team and your business?  

That’s the question Tony Brooks and I sought to answer on the Leadership Training Podcast.  

How can curiosity and creativity fuel leadership success?

Curiosity and Creativity provide opportunities. Opportunities to grow as a business, to develop new ideas, and to re-think old ones until they’re the best they can be for both you and your customers.  

But if you let every new idea take over your week, you won’t get anything done. 

So what do you do? 

You let the OTTER be your guide!

This framework helps you get more from your marketing, whilst reducing stress. andoverwhelm.

So, what is it? 

If you want to avoid being the best-kept secret in your industry then marketing and selling yourself effectively is the key to success.

A couple of months ago, I delivered a brand new keynote presentation all about Clearing the AIR to help consultants and business owners avoid marketing overwhelm and increase confidence. One topic that sparked numerous fascinating conversations is the concept of permission.

In my presentation I explored the main challenges a lot of people face when it comes to marketing themselves; managing fear and uncertainty and how a lack of self-belief can be a real spanner in the works when it comes to getting results from your marketing.

You do not need permission to believe or trust in yourself. More often than not, you already know what you need to do and if you don’t, you know that you will need to ask for help if you really want to move forwards.

As a business owner and consultant myself, I’ve experienced first-hand how crippling a lack of self-belief can be. I also know that if you want to build a thriving business, you need to find a way to channel your own self-belief and overcome the permission-seeking mindset.

So let’s explore 3 key things that happen with your marketing that might be showing up so you can break free and give yourself permission to move forwards.


Deep down, most of us already know what we need to do to market our businesses, yet we avoid doing these things - why?

It all comes down to appearances and how we think, or fear other people might see us.

Either we avoid putting ourselves out into the market to show how we add value and what we can offer. Or, we avoid asking for help, or in some cases, admitting we need help in the first place.

When you’re in business for yourself, you are your product and there’s an emotional attachment. The fear of being perceived as self-promotional or arrogant can hold a lot of people back from showing up as themselves.

I work with a lot of engineers and highly qualified professionals and the fear of making a mistake, being misunderstood or even getting it wrong can cause crippling consequences.

Appearances matter and this fear presents itself in the form of a long list of things you know you need to do but avoid doing them.

If you want to move forwards with your marketing, keep an ‘I’m avoiding this list’ and review it regularly. As you work through the items of your list, explore the reasons why you’re avoiding doing these things and discuss them with a friend, colleague or coach so that you can find a solution and make a plan to move forwards with each item. This simple exercise has been known to drive incredible results in a short period of time.

Ignorance - what are you ignoring?

There are a huge amount of emotions involved when our self belief is in question and we can sometimes rely on feelings and ignore the facts. This can affect our confidence which could repel clients instead of attract them.

One of the most common questions I ask my clients during coaching conversations is: ‘is this something you believe to be true, or know to be true?’

Always seek out the evidence for any emotion or feeling that you have that might be holding you back or stopping you from doing the marketing activity you know you need to work on.

Keep a ‘Feel Good Folder’ and make a note, screenshot or copy all of the positive evidence and feedback you see and hear from your clients that reminds you that you’re doing a good job. Refer back to this folder every time your self belief has a bit of a wobble.

I’ve also noticed that when people get stuck with their marketing they also fall into the trap of ignoring other things too such as:

  • ignoring advice from other people
  • ignoring your gut feelings when something doesn’t feel right
  • ignoring signs and signals from your market that tell you to do more, do less or keep going

Get REALLY good at asking yourself questions and exploring the REAL reasons you’re ignoring these things. Don’t be afraid to follow your intuition and more often than not you will actually know more than most marketing experts you could work with.

Respond don’t React

How often do you find yourself reacting to things in the heat of the moment instead of proactively responding to things when the time is right?

When you start reacting more than responding this is usually a sign that you do not have a plan that will help you achieve your goals or your belief in your plan is in question.

Think of a marketing plan like a map with directions up a mountain towards your goals. The further you go off plan, the longer it will take you to get back and sometimes you might need to find a guide to help you find your way again. There are many routes up the mountain but the plan you’ve developed is the one you’ve chosen that will get you there using the tools and resources you have access to and are comfortable with.

If you don’t have a marketing plan then the first step would be to create one - specifically focussed around your goals and business model.

If you do have a marketing plan and someone or something is tempting you away from your route then try to understand what’s causing that temptation.

Be clear on what you’re expecting of yourself when it comes to how much time, energy and money you’re going to invest in your marketing activity and set boundaries. Schedule time instead of try to fit it in whenever you get a free moment and avoid doing your marketing in the evenings and weekends when you’d rather be doing other things.

Confidence and self belief can be infectious and it’s really easy to get distracted by other people’s energy when they are giving you marketing advice.

Instead, channel your own confidence and self belief into your own marketing. No one knows your business better than you do and the only way you’re going to attract more clients is by showing your market who you are and what you can do for them.

If you ever get stuck or feel overwhelmed, take a step back and Clear the AIR™, look at what you’re Avoiding, Ignoring and Reacting to so that you can move forwards with confidence and focus on the activities that will accelerate your business forwards.

If you need help Clearing the AIR™ please get in touch by emailing for a confidential and no obligation call. Life is too short for you to be the best kept secret in your industry.

    When you say yes to one thing, you have to say no to something else. 

    So using the OTTER, you can determine whether what you’re doing really ties into the marketing objectives you’re working towards. 

    Before you do anything, consider: 

    • What you’ll do with the information you’re presented with? 
    • How you are using it to empower the person (or people) you’re working with, to be able to make good decisions from it as well? 

    If you can’t find an answer to these before you start,  you’re not asking the right questions in the first place. 

    Remember, it’s not about doing more, it‘s about doing less but better! 

    I can hear you now – okay well that all sounds good, but I can’t start saying no to customers?!  

    I get it, it was a completely alien concept to me, and growing up with a mum running a B2C business I knew it simply wasn’t an option to say No. 

    So, what do you do instead? 

    I’m all for customer profiling. It gives you your ideal customer’s age, job description, and favourite hobbies etc. 

    But instead of saying yes to every customer that fits that image, why not start asking a few more specific questions. 

    • Do you know their attitude? A positive person is going to be far easier to sell to. 
    • What are their behaviors?  
    • What’s their motivation?  
    • What’s important to them?  
    • How do they want to be spending their time?  
    • What are their best customers?  
    • And why?  
    • Why do they like working with them?  

    It’s not all about how much money they bring in, but also about how fun they are to work with. 

    By thinking more creatively about your ideal customer, you’re leading your company in the right direction, and it will be a far more positive environment for everyone involved. 

    You just need to allow yourself to see the bigger picture. 

    For me, it took bringing in an external party to challenge my thinking. That outside perspective can be invaluable and switching up your environment to review and reflect can really help you look objectively at what you’re doing.  

    Getting started by taking a walking meeting can work wonders for your brain and the results you achieve, rather than sitting in another boardroom. Planning it out in 12 week sprints using the OTTER can keep you focused on intentional curiosity, rather than procrastination fueling distractions. 

    So, if you thought leadership meant culling all curiosity, and losing your creative spark, then think again.

    It’s about tackling that ‘crack on and do it mentality’. 

    Taking a step back, and a break from what you’re doing, allows you to target your curiosity in the right place. Rather than simply run off on a tangent and lose sight of what you’re doing (and why!). 

    Leaders should be curious, they should breathe creativity, but they should do it in a way that helps their team, and business, grow. 

    If you’re in a leadership role, you don’t want to miss the full podcast that talks you through Tony and I’s top tips for harbouring curiosity and creativity as leaders. Listen here.

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